India’s ex-premier says new regime undermining democracy
India’s former prime minister on Wednesday accused his successor Narendra Modi of suppressing dissent and undermining democratic institutions, in an unusually outspoken attack a year after losing office.
Manmohan Singh said Modi’s government had “rewritten” history to suit its Hindu nationalist mindset since storming to power in general elections last May.
“Institutions of democracy are under threat. The entire edifice of the welfare state is now being dismantled,” said the 82-year-old Congress leader in a speech to young party members in New Delhi.
“The past is continually being rewritten to promote a highly biased and communal view of history. Dissent is being suppressed,” said Singh, who was prime minister from 2004 until last year.
Members of Modi’s right-wing government have faced criticism over a series of sensational claims for Hinduism — including suggestions that ancient Hindu sages were the pioneers of aviation and algebra.
Modi has also faced criticism over a clampdown on campaign groups including Greenpeace, which had its foreign funding licence withdrawn last month.
The government cited violations of rules governing international financial transactions.
But Greenpeace accused it of waging a “malicious” campaign against the group, which has spoken out about the environmental damage caused by India’s heavy reliance on coal and the impact of deforestation.
Singh, a pioneer of India’s landmark economic reforms in the 1990s, also said millions of “distressed farmers” were unhappy with the Modi government, which wants to pass a controversial bill making it easier to acquire land.
“Throughout the country, there is acute distress in rural areas,” he said.
The mild-mannered Singh, who enjoyed a reputation for personal probity, also denied any wrongdoing during his decade-long premiership.
“I can say in all humility that I have not used my public office to enrich myself, enrich my family or to enrich my friends,” he said.
India’s former telecoms regulator had on Tuesday accused Singh of allowing a multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal involving allocation of mobile spectrum in 2009.
The former premier also faces allegations of involvement in corruption involving coal mining licences, which he has denied.
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